Pune: Veteran off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, who predicted a 4-0 verdict in favour of India in the run-up to the four-match Test rubber against Australia, on Saturday blamed the pitch for the home team’s 333-run loss in the opening match at the Maharastra Cricket Association Stadium.
The Virat Kohli-led home side succumbed to their fourth biggest Test loss after Australian left-arm spinner Steve O’Keefe spun a web to take identical figures of 6/35 in both the innings and break the pre-series favourites India’s backbone within just three days.
The 36-year-old Harbhajan had earlier predicted India, who had thrashed New Zealand, England and Bangladesh recently, to win the series comfortably against the Australians.
Crediting the Kangaroos for pulling off a sensational win, Harbhajan said: “Credit to @CricketAus for playing unbelievable well (sic) on that wicket.”
The Punjab tweaker, however, had a go at the pitch, which remained slow and low throughout the course of the game and hoped that the teams get better tracks in the remaining three matches of the rubber.
“Let’s hope we play on good tracks from here onwards and get the right results,” he said on Twitter.
Former India batsman Mohammad Kaif felt that the loss, a first at home since 2012 is a good wake-up call for the Indian side and said that too much of spin on the wicket could help both sides.
“Kohli will be gutted with this performance. But it’s good that the bad game is done with early. Can’t see India repeating this,” he said.
“Good wake up call this for India. Track with too much spin evens the advantage. Congratulations to Australia for a fantastic victory,” he added.
Hailing Australia skipper Steve Smith’s defiant century in the second innings, former India opener Aakash Chopra said: Steve Smith’s knock is the best that I’ve seen from an overseas skipper in India. Have you seen better?”
Many former Australian greats also took to Twitter to congratulate the team, which registered their first victory in the sub-continent after a long 13-year gap.
Hailing the side’s performance, former fast bowler Jason Gillespie also had a word of caution for the young Kangaroo side.
“This is awesome! Plenty of work to do yet for the Aussies though!” Gillespie wrote.
Former all-rounder Shane Watson congratulated the architects of the Australian win – skipper Steve Smith and O’Keefe, saying: “Incredible Aussie performance in Pune. So happy for Steve O’Keefe! He has toiled so hard for this. stevesmith49 amazing 100 too.”
Former skipper Michael Clarke wrote: “Congrats boys. Absolutely brilliant!”
Lauding the side, legendary wicketkeeper-batsman Adam Gilchrist asked the Australians to celebrate the moment before preparing for the next game in Bengaluru.
“Australia, you beauty! Celebrate like there is no tomorrow. Then tomorrow, start focusing on the next one,” Gilchrist tweeted.
With Australia already 1-0 up in the four-match series, both the sides will face off in the second Test from 4 March in Bengaluru.